I've just come back from three nights running a Night Sky Photography Workshop at Lake Eppalock, and while I was supposed to be instructing, I was also very keen to capture some images of Comet Lemmon (and Comet Panstarrs) over the weekend.
The weather continued hot and dry like it has all this Victorian summer, and so while we had largely clear skies at night we were battling a lot of smoke haze (and some high cloud) that made the sky low in the south quite murky (at best) on Friday and Saturday nights. The night of Sunday 17th February 2013 was considerably better, and so I was very pleased to be able to capture this image.
Even though this total solar eclipse was 3000km from Melbourne, it was still on home territory which meant it was an opportunity too good to miss. So with some friends in the Astronomical Society of Victoria (ASV), I arranged to have a serious amount of astrophotography gear freighted up to Queensland several weeks in advance.
With the eclipse occurring on the morning of Wednesday 14th November, we arrived in Port Douglas the weekend beforehand, just as a big, wet and cloudy weather trough moved through. But the weather settled back into a more normal easterly pattern in the following days, which meant that on eclipse day there was likely be partly cloudy conditions on the coast but good prospects of clear skies inland. So Monday was spent scouting locations inland with James McHugh from the ASV and Russell and Julieanne from Adobe.
After dinner for my partner Karen's birthday on the Tuesday evening, I headed to our chosen site on the Mulligan Highway together with my dad who was keen enough to increase his chances of seeing his first eclipse to sacrifice the comfortable bed in our beach house accommodation.
Following my attempts to photograph Comet Lovejoy before Christmas, I also managed to record some timelapse sequences over six consecutive mornings after Christmas. All this while I was Summer Camp Director for Camp Cooinda on the Gippsland Lakes!
Last weekend at the Lake Eppalock retreat in central Victoria, I tried to repeat the process that got me this previous image of the Geminid meteors in 2009. However since the Orionids are generally a less active shower, I wasn't expecting to be able to do as well. It seems I was wrong.
We just had an eclipse in July, but the next one is not till 2014 so I wanted to make the most of this one. A number of looming deadlines made the weekend away for astrophotography hard to fit in and unlike the eclipse in July (winter!), the weather for this eclipse was definitely not cooperating either. Still, I guess you could say we got lucky and it just about worked out ok.
If you're interested in Night Sky Photography with your digital SLR, you might like to subsribe to my new email newsletter. The short monthly update will give a brief description of the night sky for the month ahead, particularly noting any objects or astronomical events that are easy to photograph with nothing more than a digital SLR and a tripod. I'll also include some recent and relevant night sky images and timelapse videos as inspiration.
This is my summary of the lunar eclipse in June 2011, which I enjoyed under clear skies from the sub-zero but beautiful surroundings of the Mt Buffalo plateau in north-east Victoria. Photos and more below!
Any addicted astrophotographer is always considering new equipment, and also debating the merits of several options. One of the most common questions for beginners is about the difference between digital SLRs and astronomical CCD cameras. I love a good experiment so below is my answer.
Both these images were taken with a Takahashi Epsilon 160 astrograph (530mm f3.3). Total exposure time for both images is 115 minutes (almost two hours). The comparison is between a CentralDS cooling modified and spectrum enhanced Canon 40D and a QHY9 astronomical CCD camera.